Swarm of Locusts: Excellent book in an original, wonderful series

Swarm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSwarm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSwarm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

I pull my knees to my chest, feeling myself irrationally offended at being rejected by a sentient casino.

Rebecca Roanhorse’s second THE SIXTH WORLD book, Storm of Locusts (2019), continues to deliver on the promise of Trail of Lightning. Maggie, a Navajo monsterslayer (or now, as some call her, Godslayer) ventures outside the magical walls of the Navajo reservation to stop a magically enhanced terrorist from destroying it. She also mourns the loss of Kai Arviso, the son of a god, who helped her in the first book. Maggie now carries the Lightning Sword, but she doesn’t know how to activate it.

Maggie takes a bounty hunter job with the Thirsty Boys, seeking a man who calls himself The White Locust. He is a cult leader who is collecting explosives. The search goes wrong, and Maggie ends up caring for Ben, the niece of the Thirsty Boys’ leader. Then her allies, the Goodacre twins, ask her to help them find their younger brother Clive, who has been abducted. The trail leads her and her friends outside the wall of the Dinetah, the Navajo homeland, into a beautifully surreal “Malpais,” the outside world.

The geopolitics of the former USA were shattered in a series of natural disasters and global warming, which drowned cities, changed coastlines and destabilized government and currency. In the wake of the Big Water, smaller nation-states have sprung up, and Maggie’s quest means she has to interact with several of these.

Like Maggie and Kai, Ben has active clan powers. She is a quick and nimble climber, and she can track a person from their blood. Along the way, the shape-shifter Mosi joins them for a while. Their quest to rescue Kai and stop the White Locust leads them to Knifetown, where the town elders trade in human slaves and human organs, to a sentient casino, to a houseboat on Lake Powell and ultimately to a defunct resort. Rissa Goodacre, who has never quite trusted Maggie before, lets her guard down to some extent, but as the story progresses Rissa has other doubts. (Here’s a spoiler. Highlight the text if you want to read it: Kai has resurrected and is alive, but it seems like he’s under the influence of the White Locust. And it’s clear that some of their at-least-momentary allies are not, and will never be, friends.

Roanhorse uses Storm of Locusts’ present tense and short chapters to good effect, creating a propulsive, breakneck pace. She leaves enough time for Maggie to reflect on her past, her purpose, and why she keeps pushing people away. The growing trust between Maggie and Rissa lets her explore each character more deeply, and the descriptions of the southwest reminded me of Edward Abbey at his intentionally strangest. I loved the weirdness, the beauty and the action sequences in the climax.

Maggie is still a prickly character who clings to self-destructive thoughts and patterns, but the growing circle of friends is calling on her to re-evaluate. Ben is a welcome addition to the mix, and her impetuosity makes her a good foil for Maggie.

If anything obstructed me enjoyment of this book, it might be those short chapters. The plot is well-thought-out, but, reading it, I felt scattered at times, and it seemed mostly to do with the rhythm. That’s a small problem. Storm of Locusts didn’t disappoint, and THE SIXTH WORLD is shaping up to be an original and wonderful series.

Published in April 2019. Kai and Caleb Goodacre have been kidnapped just as rumors of a cult sweeping across the reservation leads Maggie and Hastiin to investigate an outpost, and what they find there will challenge everything they’ve come to know in this action-packed sequel to Trail of Lightning. It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power. Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them. Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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3 comments

  1. You’ve convinced me to buy a copy for myself ASAP rather than just be patient and wait for Santa to deliver one to me. :D

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